Friday, February 06, 2009

Feb 6, 1909

One hundred years ago.

That's the day my grandfather, Leo Tanghe, was born. I wish he had lived to see his hundredth birthday - but he did not, so we'll just have to honor the day on our own.

When asked to tell about his youth he started with "I was born, as most people are..."

He was a scientist to the core, making note of the minutia of life and recording it. His daily diaries are more accounts of what he ate and who he saw and what temperature it was than how he felt about any particular thing. But that didn't mean that he didn't also have the soul of a poet hiding behind that doctorate in chemistry.

When on a train trip away from his soon-to-be wife (in 1934) he detailed some of the experience in a letter home.
The Pullmans are fixed up quite nice compared with the day coaches. Only the middle half of the car is taken up by sleeping quarters. At one end there is the men's washroom and smoking lounge. Hot water, mirrors and towels are available. At the other end there is a similar compartment for the women (I presume, without making a thorough investigation of the matter.)
The berth had a great deal more room than I had expected. Two could lie side by side provided they did not worry too much about getting their clothes mussed up, or about lying real close to each other.
It seemed as though we were going along leisurely at about the same rate that Alan might be pulling a cart down the sidewalk with no particular destination in mind. Yet the train must have been going about 60 miles an hour in order to get there in eight hours.
He kept a diary during their honeymoon trip. The first entry is from June 30, 1935, the morning after the wedding.
Fine day to start out our honeymoon. Warm and sunny all day long. Our destination is the Adirondacks - no special place in particular - except to be able to give vent to desire to see the massive wooded hills again. There is something attractive about the mountains. Even after having been here several times before, I return again in preference to going to a place where I have never been before.

Such an unpardonable error, for now we are two - Ruth and Leo. The word "I" must be cast into oblivion.

Such joy I never again expect to experience, as when I looked on her pretty head resting deep in the pillow. On that pillow too, I could rest my head right next to hers.

There is the word "I" again, but I am sure that word speaks for the both of us. Whatever joy was mine, was also hers. Our joys bound right back from one to the other, just as light does from two mirrors facing each other.

They raised six children together, my grandmother home taking care of the children, my grandfather working as a chemist for Kodak.

He loved photography and nature and especially mushrooms. He was a noted mushroom expert in the Rochester area and would be called upon to identify possibly poisonous mushrooms or even to discuss mushroom poisoning incidents on television as he did in 1995 - and recorded the event for several journals (second section).

When my daughter was born he sent a letter telling us what he was doing as they awaited news of her birth

We got this message [that I was at the hospital] just before we left for the 9:30 Mass at St. Charles. This is quite a struggle for us during the winter. I have to get out of our house through the back door on my butt and then get into the wheelchair and let Ruth push me to the car in the garage. Luckily I do not have any trouble driving [yeah, that raised my eyebrows too]

He loved to make jams and jellies and would invite all of his local great-grandchildren over in the spring and they would make raspberry jam from the raspberries growing in the backyard.

He had a recipe for Hot Pepper Jam that showed his scientific side:
4 lb sweet peppers
4 lb hot peppers
1 lemon
6 c vinegar
5 lb sugar
2 pkg (1 3/4 oz each) Sure Jel

I prefer red over green pepers - better flavor and more appealing color. These are available in late Sept and early Oct. at the Publbic market.

Quarter the sweet peppers and remove stem and seeds. Cut tops off red peppers and leave sees in. Quarter the lemon and use it all. Put peppers and lemon through coarse food chopper. Some juice may run out; catch it and add it to the ground mix. Place in a large pan or kettle with a heavy bottom.

Add vinegar and bring to a boil.

Add sugar and bring to a boil

Add Sure-jel and bring to boil (about 102 degrees C or 217 degrees F) and continue to boil until the thermometer reaches 104 degrees C or 220 degrees F while stirring. It is important to stir occasionally at the beginning and more often near the end. If you don't it might stick to the bottom or boil over and make a mess you will never forget. This will take about an hour, depending on the heat setting.

At this point put a test portion in a small container (bottle cap or milk carton cap) and cool it in the refrigerator. If it is too runny when chilled, boil it a little longer. With practice you can tell by the consistency when it has been boiled down enough.

Pour into sterilized jelly jars and cover with melted paraffin wax. If the jars have screw caps and take dome lids, wax is not necessary.

You will love it or hate it. You can adjust the "hotness" by varying the amounts of sweet and green peppers. You might want to use half or quarter of the above amounts for a first trial, but if you like it make a big batch and give some to your friends.

He was always ready to share his knowledge with anyone who was interested. Here he shows my cousin Jodie how to use a sliderule. Ten-month-old Pippi looks on, figuring this may be important someday.

For more great pictures go to my mom's blog Morning Glory Alley.

Happy Birthday, Grandpa.


PJ Hoover said...

What a wonderful tribute!

Anne K said...

Chris, you did a super job! I'm sure Grandpa is very pleased, by golly!

Vivian said...

Thanks for sharing these lovely letters about your Grandpa. And what letters! Hugs.